Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The FLQ and the Quebec October Crisis

The Army Arrives

Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau

On Oct. 13, Pierre Trudeau took to the radio airwaves himself to try to reassure jittery Canadians.

"The main thing that the FLQ is trying to gain from this is a hell of a lot of publicity for the movement . . . and I am suggesting that the more recognition you give to them, the greater the victory is, and I'm not interested in giving them a victory," he said.

University of Montreal
University of Montreal

But two days later, the public perception of a crisis intensified when an estimated 3,000 French-Canadians -- many of them students -- turned out for political protests in Montreal. French-language schools throughout the city were forced to close, and the Canadian Army was called in to restore social order.

At the request of political leaders in Quebec, Trudeau decided to invoke the War Measures Act, a vestige of World War I that allowed the government to suspend civil liberties. Within 12 hours, 250 suspected FLQ members and sympathizers had been arrested.

Wanted 4 FLQ members
Wanted 4 FLQ members

A day later, the tone of the October Crisis changed when the Chenier cell of the FLQ announced to a radio station that Pierre Laporte had been murdered for the cause of Quebec independence. The communique directed reporters to the airport at St.-Hubert, Quebec, where the body of Laporte was found stuffed in the trunk of Paul Rose's Chevrolet. He had been strangled.

Laporte's body in trunk
Laporte's body in trunk

The government immediately stepped up its assault on the Front de libération du Québec. It conducted more than 5,000 searches and raids and arrested nearly 500 people.

One opposition politician said the War Measures Act and the raids were overkill -- like "using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut."

But most Canadians apparently approved of the stern measures, given Laporte's murder.

Public opinion polls showed that nearly nine in 10 citizens -- both Anglo and French-speaking -- supported Trudeau's hardline tactics against the FLQ.

 

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